In an interview on CNN's The Situation Room in January, U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) told host Wolf Blitzer that a Miami Herald poll showed 70 percent of people who responded "supported him" after he likened Miami to a "Third World country." However, the Herald said there was no such poll, according to a February 6 column by Noticiero Univision news anchor Maria Elena Salinas.
In a February 6 syndicated column, Noticiero Univision television news anchor Maria Elena Salinas reported that U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) told CNN's Wolf Blitzer during an interview on The Situation Room in January that "a poll conducted by The Miami Herald [showed] 70% of the people who responded supported him" after his controversial remark likening Miami to a "Third World country." Salinas went on to report that her "office consulted the Herald about the alleged Tancredo poll, and they told us there was no such poll." As of February 7, Blitzer had yet to acknowledge his uncritical reporting of Tancredo's reported falsehood.
As Colorado Media Matters noted, a November 19, 2006, article posted on the right-wing website WorldNetDaily.com reported that "Tancredo pointed to Florida's largest city as an example of how the nature of America can be changed by uncontrolled immigration." The article quoted Tancredo, who has since formed an exploratory committee for a possible 2008 presidential bid, as saying:
"Look at what has happened to Miami. It has become a Third World country ... You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a Third World country.
Tancredo's remarks -- which received coverage in the Herald, the Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, and on Colorado television newscasts -- generated controversy and critical responses from Republican politicians, including Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami.
As Salinas wrote in her column, "Trapped in his own xenophobic world, Tancredo believes his own rhetoric. He told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview that in a poll conducted by The Miami Herald, 70% of the people who responded supported him. My office consulted the Herald about the alleged Tancredo poll, and they told us there was no such poll."
From the January 16 broadcast of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: If you want to be president, though, you've got to win Florida.
TANCREDO: If you want to -- it's an interesting thing. "The Miami Herald" took a poll on my statements. Seventy percent of the people that responded supported me. Most of the radio and television stations down there that have done similar polling also supported me. All of the mail that I get, it's 60 to 70 percent of Floridians who support me.
Furthermore, on January 13, the Herald published a guest editorial (accessed through the Nexis database) by Tancredo in which he again claimed he saw "polls ... from the area" that "indicate I have said something most people believe to be true, but few politicians or media outlets are willing to utter." Although Tancredo went on to offer some national statistics about the Miami population and crime rates, he never identified the "polls" he mentioned. Tancredo's editorial stated:
Although I believe I have made more controversial statements in my political life, I don't recall any that sparked more interest and response than my reference to Miami as a ''Third World country.'' Interestingly, most of the response -- especially from Floridians -- has been quite positive. Even the polls I have seen from the area indicate I have said something most people believe to be true, but few politicians or media outlets are willing to utter.
As of the February 7 broadcast of The Situation Room, Blitzer had yet to report Salinas' finding that the Herald told her "there was no such poll." Since February 6, Salinas' article has been featured in The New Jersey Herald News (accessed through the Nexis database), The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (accessed through Nexis), and on the websites FresnoBee.com, Thinkprogress.org, and The Californian.com.
From the editorial "Rep. Tancredo's Third World mentality," by Maria Elena Salinas:
Congressman Tom Tancredo is finally showing his true colors. The representative from Colorado, better known as the poster boy for the anti-immigrant movement in the House of Representatives, has now turned his attacks on his own colleagues, showing that it's not just undocumented immigrants he has a problem with, but rather people of color.
Tancredo's latest proposal is to abolish race-based groups in Congress. He is suggesting, as he did back in 2003, that groups such as the Congressional Black Caucus, the Hispanic Congressional Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Conference -- made up of Hispanic Republicans -- should not exist. He calls them divisive and contrary to the goal of achieving a colorblind society.
Just a few weeks ago, Tancredo raised eyebrows and embarrassed fellow Republicans when he called Miami a Third World country. He said you could take the city and put it anywhere else, and you'd never know you were in the United States. That part is probably true. Miami is an ethnically diverse city with an international flair, but it hardly has the conditions of a Third World country. Among other things, it has a large Cuban-American community composed mostly of political refugees, not undocumented immigrants.
Tancredo's comments didn't go over very well with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The president's little brother, who moved back to Miami after leaving office, sent Tancredo a letter expressing his disappointment in Tancredo's "disparaging comments" regarding his hometown.
"All ethnicities in Florida contribute to our economy, enhance our communities and enrich our cultural heritage," said Bush.
He ended his letter by stating that there is a lesson to be learned by all this: "Perhaps your naive comments serve as a good reminder for everyone to lessen the anger, frustration and emotion surrounding the issue of immigration. Overheated rhetoric won't solve this issue."
Unfortunately, the only thing the letter did was fuel Tancredo's anger. The next day, he responded with even more "disparaging comments" about Miami.
Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen tried to smooth things over by inviting Tancredo to Miami, but this time it wasn't the Colorado congressman who wanted nothing to do with what he has referred to as one of "America's most dangerous areas," but the service people at the restaurant where he was to deliver a speech who refused to serve him.
Trapped in his own xenophobic world, Tancredo believes his own rhetoric. He told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview that in a poll conducted by The Miami Herald, 70% of the people who responded supported him. My office consulted the Herald about the alleged Tancredo poll, and they told us there was no such poll.
Tancredo now wants to run for president, making immigration the central issue of his campaign. Surely there are millions of Americans of varied ethnic backgrounds who might share his views on immigration.